A Dónde Vamos?
The quality of airline apps seems to run the entire spectrum of awful to amazing. Aeromexico, upon releasing their most recent app, seems to have leapfrogged the competition. This update to their app comes at an interesting period, considering the timing of the Delta Air Lines and Aeromexico Joint Cooperation Agreement and ownership deal. Delta, in a similar situation with Virgin Atlantic, simply replaced the Virgin Atlantic app with a re-skinned Delta app; it is possible that either Delta’s technology team is testing a new user interfaces for the Delta Air Lines app via Aeromexico, or that Aeromexico had simply already committed to a new app design before the announcement of cooperation was made. Either way, the new Aeromexico app is designed well, and the developers seem to have worked around several design constraints to bring forth a great looking mobile application.
One constraint designers must work with is the integration of older technologies: airlines, for various reasons, are notoriously slow at updating pieces of technology that are critical to their daily operation. When designing a mobile application, interfaces with these systems must be considered. American Airlines, in a previous version of their mobile application, simply served the mobile version of their website when a user chooses to book flights, rather than designing a mobile interface for their SABRE distribution system. Aeromexico’s new app feels consistent throughout the experience, by contrast, which is good for usability, as there are no jarring transitions which interrupt usage.
Unfortunately, like many airline apps, Aeromexico’s app seems to struggle slightly with language accessibility. The airline industry, as a whole, seems to struggle with semiotics: the symbol for “book new flight” is an icon of an ascending airplane. This icon could represent any number of things and “purchase Travel” is not the first that springs to mind. Within the Aeromexico app, many actions (including actions with icons) are labeled in English simply because I downloaded the app from the American App Store. Language selection in the app is not based on the system language on the iPhone selected by the user. Spanish speaking travelers in America are thus required to navigate themselves to “Settings,” then “language and location,” before they are able to select a new language. To alleviate this accessibility issue, I would recommend Aeromexico move the language selection option to a more prominent location: positioning the language selection option during the initial app setup process, or as a selectable flag on the home screen of the app. Positioning the language selection options in a more prominent location would make the app more accessible to users who may not speak English as a first language.
Another flaw with the interface of the Aeromexico app that affects both memorability and learnability is the duplication of menu controls. The app features both a tab bar at the bottom of the screen and a hamburger menu, located at the top right of the app. Controls in the tab bar [Book, My Trips, Status, Promotions] are replicated in a different order in the hamburger menu. The duplication of these controls could create confusion for new users, as they would be confused about two systems of navigation. My suggestion would be to remove the hamburger menu altogether, instead replacing it with a “more” tab in the tab bar. This tab could include the unique options previously housed by the hamburger menu [Car Rental, Grand Plan, Settings, Feedback, Contact, etc.] Arranging the options in this way would have the added benefit of naturally emphasizing the most important options in the app, not housed under “more.”